A Guide on the Common Causes of Yellow Teeth

causes of yellow teeth

Recent findings indicate that 68% of Americans think that people who smile are more approachable, confident, and trustworthy. Yet, according to that same study, three in five hate how their smile looks in pictures. If you find yourself among this group and you don’t feel comfortable with your smile, you’re not alone. One common reason people dislike their smile is due to yellow teeth. If you’re wondering about the causes of yellow teeth, keep reading.

We cover all the main reasons that it can happen, as well as your options for brightening your smile.


As we age, our enamel thins out, revealing the dentin beneath. Dentin has a yellowish or brownish color. Teeth produce more dentin as individuals get older as well.

The tooth enamel wears away after years of chewing and exposure to acidic foods and drinks. Some teeth can even take on a grayish shade.

Genetics can also play a part. If you have parents with yellow teeth, it may pass down to you. Plus, some people have thicker enamel than others.


Certain foods and drinks can cause stains. The most common culprits include:

  • Coffee
  • Tea
  • Wine
  • Sodas
  • Sports drinks
  • Fruits and juices
  • Soy sauce
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Curry
  • Colored candy
  • Berries
  • Slushies and popsicles
  • Tomato sauces

Thankfully, there are ways to reduce the staining from these foods and drinks.

Use a straw when sipping sodas and fruity drinks to protect your teeth. Brush your teeth after you’ve consumed these foods to minimize the impact, and use a whitening toothpaste for extra effect.

If you can’t brush, rinse your mouth and drink plenty of water.


The use of tobacco products is also one of the most common culprits of yellow teeth. If you’ve noticed yellowing of the teeth, cigarettes and other tobacco products may be to blame.

The cause is due to nicotine, which leaves brownish-yellow stains on the teeth. These stains can be tough to remove.

The good news is that smokers can brighten their smiles by quitting and improving their oral hygiene routine. If you’re a smoker and you’re wondering how to get white teeth, start by brushing twice a day, regularly flossing, and using teeth whitening products.

Of course, these products can only do so much. For a much brighter smile, you need cosmetic dental care. A dentist can lighten the shade of your teeth by several levels through bleaching.

Many people use at-home treatments to whiten their teeth. These products are okay if you want a slight improvement, but they are not ideal for smokers. For individuals with stained teeth, professional treatment is stronger and more reliable than any at-home solution.

Medical Conditions and Medications

Treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation for the head and neck can result in yellow or discolored teeth.

Additionally, certain medications can cause teeth to change color. Tetracycline and doxycycline, antihistamines, high blood pressure, antipsychotic, and asthma medications may also cause discoloration.

Lack of Oral Hygiene

It should come as no surprise that neglecting your oral hygiene can result in yellow or discolored teeth. Brushing, flossing, rinsing, and scheduling regular dental checkups and cleanings all affect how your smile looks.

Poor dental hygiene habits can result in stained and darker teeth. Bacteria in the mouth combine with food particles and saliva to create a sticky film called plaque. Plaque can also result in tartar, which is a more permanent coating.

Tartar and plaque eat away the tooth’s enamel, revealing the yellowish-brown layers beneath.

Thankfully, this is an easy mistake to correct. Keeping up with proper brushing and flossing can prevent plaque. However, if you’re dealing with badly stained teeth, you’ll need professional teeth bleaching to bring them back to a lighter shade.

Excessive Flouride

Too much fluoride can also cause stained teeth. Although it’s generally good for the teeth, too much can cause fluorosis, especially in children. It’s usually an issue during teeth-forming years or around age eight and younger.

Fluorosis looks like white spots on the surface of the tooth. More severe cases are quite rare but may cause pits in the teeth.

Flouride can come from the environment, such as tap water, supplements, or products such as toothpaste and rinses.


Sometimes, an accident or fall that impacts the tooth’s enamel can result in cracks and interior damage. These cracks may indicate a bigger problem and result in discoloration.

Oral trauma can occur in both children and adults. If you suspect an issue after an accident, especially if you see discoloration, see your dentist and get a checkup.

Another form of damage comes from tooth grinding or bruxism. People that grind their teeth when they sleep, or unconsciously, can wear away the enamel. Weakened enamel may crack and turn yellow.

Options for Treatment

People have several options for treatment if they want to remove stains and lighten their teeth.

The first and most important step is prevention. Implement a regular brushing and flossing routine to keep your smile healthy. Brush twice a day, especially after consuming beverages or foods that can stain.

If you can’t brush, drink water to rinse and wash away the stain-causing foods. Avoid stain-causing foods and drinks, or learn to cut back.

Schedule a dental cleaning every six months. Your dentist can spot problems such as plaque buildup early to prevent more serious issues later.

At-Home vs. In-Office

For stained teeth, you can bleach them with special treatments, such as:

  • Over-the-counter whitening agents
  • In-office whitening procedures
  • At-home whitening gel from your dentist

Over-the-counter treatments might seem convenient but may not produce the results you want. The whitening might not be as bright as you expected or as even.

An in-office whitening procedure is more reliable. Your dentist can assess your teeth and gums to ensure you’ll be a good candidate and then discuss bleaching. The procedure generally takes one or two visits.

Your dentist may also create a custom-fitted tray to bleach your teeth at home.

These Are the Causes of Yellow Teeth

There are many causes of yellow teeth, from aging to foods that can stain. Your teeth starting to discolor over time is a fact of life, but you can turn to cosmetic treatments to help.

Reach out to us at Newbury Dental Group to schedule an appointment today and discuss your options for achieving a brighter smile!


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